Glowforge Pro review: Laser cutting and engraving for serious hobbyists and makers

glowforge-pro-header.jpg

The Glowforge Professional seems to be like a bulky big-format common printer, but somewhat than depositing ink on paper this 25kg (55lbs) device engraves and cuts a variety of elements.


Impression: Charles McLellan / ZDNet

3D printing, and its industrial counterpart additive production, is widely covered on ZDNet and in the media generally. Selling prices vary from a number of hundred pounds to 7-figure sums, with elements together with several kinds of plastic, resins, metals and even concrete. 

A further variety of device, which also spans the vary from hobbyist to industrial purposes, is the CNC laser cutter/engraver, which can etch types into a variety of elements, together with plastic, leather-based, wood, metallic and glass, and also minimize out shapes from some of them, which you can then assemble into 3D objects. That’s why Glowforge calls its device a ‘3D laser printer’. 

Started in 2014, Glowforge raised a history $27.9 million for a 30-day crowdfunding campaign in October of the next yr, and released its finalised merchandise range in April 2018. There are three designs, with diverse combos of laser ability, effectiveness and most ‘print’ dimension. Glowforge Primary costs $2,995, when the Moreover product costs $three,995 and the Professional version costs $5,995. The business just lately announced the availability of its merchandise line in the United kingdom (costs are a immediate greenback-to-pound translation) — consequently the presence of the Professional product on the testimonials bench (Ok, my house office environment) in this article at ZDNet United kingdom. 

http://www.zdnet.com/

Like

  • Easy to established up and use
  • Uncomplicated web-based program
  • Handles a extensive vary of elements
  • Active and helpful local community message boards

Do not Like

  • Sound, odour
  • Professional product is high priced
  • Are not able to engrave substance around 5cm (2in.) thick
  • Proofgrade elements are high priced

Design 

The Glowforge Professional comes in a bulky and nicely-safeguarded box measuring 116.8cm by seventy one.1cm by 35.5cm (46in. x 28in. x 14in.) and weighing 32kg (70lbs). The device inside of is ninety six.5cm extensive by fifty two.7cm deep by 21cm tall (38in. x twenty.75in. x eight.25in.) and weighs 25kg (55lbs) — a definite two-particular person raise. You can expect to require a strong desk or desk with at least 2.5cm (1in.) of clearance all over all sides, and substantially much more to the entrance and back again if you intend to use the Pro’s passthrough slot to accommodate larger sized elements. 

All three designs can acquire elements measuring up to twenty.four inches extensive by 18 inches deep by 2 inches thick, with a most printable region of all over 11in. by 19.5in. The Pro’s passthrough slot allows for elements measuring twenty inches extensive by a quarter of an inch thick, with no restrict on size – you print ten inches at a time and then slide the substance as a result of the slot to procedure the next part. 

The Glowforge comes with an accessory pack that includes the black metallic crumb tray, which sits in the mattress of the printer to acquire any particles, an exhaust hose that clamps around the outlet on the back again of the device, and a starter pack of Proofgrade materials. We experienced a variety of woods and MDF, a couple of pieces of acrylic and some leather-based. Formal Proofgrade elements come with peel-off protective coating on both sides and a QR code from which the Glowforge’s constructed-in digital camera reads the appropriate laser options. If you invest in third-bash elements, you can expect to require to verify their CO2 laser compatibility, and determine the appropriate options. The Glowforge Community is valuable with this problem, among many some others. 

There are two solutions for disposing of the dust and odour that arise from the exhaust hose: you can route the hose to the outside as a result of a window or a window vent, or you can attach it to the optional air filter device. The latter is hefty both in terms of fat (22kg/48lbs) and expense ($995/£901.sixty two), with substitution filter cartridges costing $250 or £187.ninety six. The estimated cartridge lifetime depends on what you print, and for how extended. 

The Glowforge Professional seems to be like a huge printer with a white moulded plastic scenario, a glass best and lid (with a digital camera on its underside), which opens to expose the rail-mounted laser tube/arm/printer head mechanism, and the crumb tray on the floor of the device. You can find a entrance doorway that pulls down for simple obtain to the insides, with passthrough slots entrance and back again for big elements (Professional product only). At the back again you can expect to obtain the ability enter, on/off change and exhaust connection. You can find a big circular button on the best, on the suitable facet toward the entrance, which flashes white to display that the Glowforge is ready to print, which it does when you press the button. 

Set up & features 

When you’ve got unboxed the Glowforge and place the several components in put (printer head, crumb tray, exhaust hose) you ability it up and hold out for the button to glow a teal colour, which signifies that the printer’s short term Wi-Fi obtain point is ready to link to your pc (or cellphone) to entire the set up. You do this by using set up.glowforge.com, signing in using the email and password used throughout the purchasing procedure. When the printer head has accomplished its calibration, you can reconnect to your common Wi-Fi network. Wi-Fi is the only connection technique concerning your pc and the Glowforge: there’s no cable concerned, and an online connection is essential for print processing. 

Tasks are ready for printing in the Glowforge web application, https://application.glowforge.com, which can import bitmap (JPG, PNG) and vector data files (SVG, PDF). The application also offers obtain, by using a Glowforge Premium subscription, to a catalogue of no cost and compensated-for types, and allows you to produce your very own initiatives from scratch using a variety of clip-art-model graphics, shapes and text in a vary of fonts. 

Glowforge Premium is, as the name implies, not low-cost: the complete price tag is $/£50 a thirty day period, though it really is at the moment on present at £349 in the United kingdom when billed every 18 months (£19.39 a thirty day period). If you might be a self-assured person of vector graphics program like Inkscape or Adobe Illustrator, you could not require Glowforge Premium. But the equipment (specifically the auto-define element), artwork and fonts are helpful, and the lower price may well nicely swing the conclusion for some buyers. Other Premium benefits include processing of print types on more rapidly cloud-based servers, endless cloud storage for your types and early obtain to experimental capabilities. 

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You can also produce a print by drawing or writing on paper, positioning it in the mattress of the device and getting the digital camera in the lid convert it into a electronic file, which you can then manipulate in several methods in the web application. 

The Glowforge Professional employs a CO2 laser tube working at ten,600nm and averaging 45W (the Moreover and Primary designs use fewer highly effective 40W lasers), with the X/Y axis motors enabling the laser to engrave with one,000dpi resolution. It can rating (drawing a line, at small ability) and engrave in numerous passes, various the laser ability concerning pixels to accomplish diverse ranges of darkness. The laser can also minimize substance up to 50 % an inch (one.2cm) thick, at speeds depending on the substance and its thickness.  

You can’t minimize metallic, as this would need laser ability ranges outside of individuals possible on a desktop device. Nonetheless, you can minimize wood, material, leather-based, paper, acrylic, mylar, rubber, and much more. All of these elements can also be engraved, along with glass, coated metallic, marble, anodised aluminium and titanium. So you can, if you would like, etch your name or a layout on to your cellphone, tablet or laptop, among other issues that are not much more than two inches thick. 

Usability & effectiveness

I analyzed the Glowforge Professional by engraving shots and scans on to a variety of Proofgrade elements. I also made a headphone stand in MDF and etched the ZDNet brand into the back again of an iPad.

glowforge-pro-bewick-engraving.jpg

A scan of a wood engraving by Thomas Bewick (1753-1828), engraved on to Proofgrade maple plywood, which costs £20.26 in the United kingdom for every conventional-dimension (12in. x 20in.) medium-thickness (one/8in.) sheet. Print time was all over forty minutes.


Impression: Charles McLellan / ZDNet. Original artwork: Thomas Bewick

glowforge-pro-headphone-stand.jpg

A headphone stand, minimize and assembled from Proofgrade draftboard, which costs £8.28 in the United kingdom for every conventional-dimension (12in. x 20in.) medium-thickness (one/8in.) sheet. The layout was downloaded from the Glowforge Catalog, and print time was all over eleven minutes.


Photographs: Charles McLellan / ZDNet

hope-cove-deckchairs-acrylic.jpg

A photo (previously mentioned left) engraved on Proofgrade very clear acrylic at draft resolution and photographed towards a window pane (previously mentioned suitable). A conventional-dimension (12in. x 20in.) medium-thickness (one/8in.) sheet of Proofgrade very clear acrylic costs £16.ninety six in the United kingdom.


Photographs: Charles McLellan / ZDNet  

glowforge-pro-ipad.jpg

A brand etched on to the back again of an iPad. I uncovered the appropriate laser options for this anodised aluminium substance on the Glowforge forum. This etching took about ten minutes.


Photographs: Charles McLellan / ZDNet  

I experienced no significant issues with any of these initiatives. The web application interface is straightforward, with great comments about which phase of the procedure is underway. Print situations will fluctuate depending on the dimension and element amount of the material, whether or not it really is remaining engraved or minimize, and the output resolution: shots can be Draft or Hd graphics can be Draft, SD or Hd, and there’s a 3D Engrave possibility (for specific elements) that engraves with further depth (you can expect to require a heightmap picture file for this). Eradicating the protective layer after printing can be fiddly for sophisticated engravings, but it really is worthy of the exertion: getting rid of it prior to printing runs the risk of unattractive burn marks.

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You can find a reasonable total of sounds when the Glowforge is working, specifically if you use the air filter as there will be two supporters whirring absent. The total of sounds and residual odour will depend on the material remaining printed and the substance it really is remaining printed on. We analyzed the Glowforge in a house office environment in a small terraced household, but its favored habitat is possibly a spacious workshop the place family/neighbour-annoyance is not going to be an problem.

Conclusions 

The best-end Glowforge Professional set up we analyzed, with the air filter device, is by no indicates low-cost at $six,990 or £6,897 all told ($/£5,995 + $995 or £902). Formal Proofgrade elements carry high quality costs, as well, and specific varieties are at the moment in shorter source in the United kingdom. “Since launching Glowforge in the United kingdom we have experienced a a lot larger demand than envisioned for Proofgrade elements. We are even so carrying out our greatest to meet this demand and to make certain every United kingdom buyer receives their Proofgrade elements,” Glowforge told ZDNet.

Extra economical third-bash elements are accessible online and in retail shops, but it really is up to you to figure out their laser compatibility and use the appropriate options in the web application. Then there’s the Glowforge Premium membership, if you require it, which is at the moment on present at £19.39 a thirty day period.

If you might be ready to vent the exhaust out of a window somewhat than use the air filter, drop down to a 40W laser with slower engraving and cutting speeds, and forego enhanced cooling and the passthrough slot, you can reduce the outlay to $/£3,995 for the Moreover product — substantial financial savings of $2,995 and £2,902 around the Professional+air filter price tag tag. And if you don’t brain even slower engraving pace, and 50 % the guarantee period of time, $/£2,995 for the Primary product seems to be pretty appealing. 


Glowforge product

Professional

Moreover

Primary

CDRH classification

Class four

Class one

Class one

Laser ability

45W

40W

40W

Warranty  

12 months  

12 months  

six months  

Upgraded components (more rapidly pace)  

sure

sure

no

Engraving pace  

3x

2x

1x

Slash pace  

one.2x

1x

1x

Increased cooling  

sure

no

no

Passthrough slot

sure

no

no

Cost

$5,995

$three,995

$2,995


I uncovered the Glowforge Professional a satisfying device to use. It can be straightforward to established up, engraves and cuts a great vary of elements, and use instances are restricted much more by the user’s innovative abilities than any deficiencies of the device itself.

You can expect to require to be aware of security, specifically if experimenting with third-bash elements, and will have to cope with sounds and some odour issues when printing – even if you have the exhaust hose effectively established up. You can expect to also require lots of space to household this big device, specifically if you intend to use the Pro’s passthrough slot. 

You don’t have to commit $three-six,000 on a laser cutter/engraver, as (fewer able) items are accessible for as minor as $five hundred, or even fewer. We are looking in this article at the mid-vary, when previously mentioned Glowforge’s offerings are industrial-amount equipment that charge substantially much more.

The Glowforge Professional is an outstanding choice for nicely-heeled hobbyists and makers, when the Moreover and Primary designs present much more economical routes into the environment of laser cutting and engraving. Glowforge is not just for hobbyists, possibly: a lot of buyers run profitable small enterprises selling the initiatives they produce on these functional machines. 

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